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Would I Lie To You?

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Do you remember the movie "Election," with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick? In the first scene Mr. McAllister asks his high school class about the difference between ethics and morals. Ironically, of course, the one student who eagerly attempts to answer the question is also the one who proceeds to make mincemeat of both ethics and morals during the course of the movie, her ambition a veritable engine for her imagination and willingness to do almost anything to secure her class presidency. Tracy Flick sees the future open before her, dependent on winning that race, completely indignant when someone dares run against her, amazingly unself-conscious about the levels to which she’ll "stoop to conquer.’

In fact, Tracy continues to see herself as a good person, earnestly praying before bedtime for her "Dear Lord Jesus" to "go that one last mile and make sure to put me in office where I belong so that I may carry out your will on earth as it is in heaven. Amen." In this Tracy exemplifies the difference between morals and ethics: morals relate to one’s personal value system, while ethics relate to one’s conduct within a community. Ethics concern the responsibilities people within a community have toward one another and toward a larger sense of "good living" or "correct conduct," while morals are more commonly associated with beliefs about what is right or wrong in a particular society. Ethics are particularly important in professional communities where there are certain standards that each member is expected to meet, especially when someone’s life or livelihood is one the line (doctors and lawyers, for example, even teachers).

It’s easy, of course, to mix these up, and people often do. In fact, I think we see the confusion over ethics and morals every time one of these author-conduct incidents rolls out. As soon as an author is called out over some particular conduct – plagiarism, gaming reviews, re-shelving books, whatever – a lot of backlash erupts around whether or not the author is being attacked. Which leads to a lot of mashing up about whether or not the bloggers who cover these stories are, for lack of a better description, mean girls who just like to stir shit up.

Since we’ve talked a lot about the difference between the author as a person and the author’s work and online conduct, I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about blogger conduct, and more specifically about whether bloggers need a code of ethics similar to the one we seem to assume of authors. Do we need some community standards of reporting and reviewing, even though we’re largely amateurs in this online arena and not professionals earning a living?

I don’t have an absolute answer to this question, but before I offer my view and open it up for discussion, I want to put a few things on the table to chew over:

First, do bloggers constitute a community separate and apart from the online community more generally? Since many different types of people blog, is there a special category for blogs like Dear Author, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Teach Me Tonight, All About Romance After Hours, and the like, that sets them apart? Is it the particular activity that defines the blog community or the role of the bloggers?

If bloggers are a community unto themselves, to what standards should we be held? Should we meet more general journalistic standards or editorial standards? Does it make a difference if we attempt impartiality in our reportage and commenting, or should we be required to provide honest opinions? Should we be required to believe everything we assert? Cyberjournalist.net created a proposed Bloggers’ Code of Ethics that emphasizes three main categories: Be Honest and Fair; Minimize Harm; and Be Accountable. Some of what they focus on – "never plagiarize," for example – is relevant to anyone writing publicly, but other things – "show good taste" and avoid "pandering to lurid curiosity" is obviously a HUGE matter of judgment, not to mention valuation of a blog’s worth. Do editorialists abide by these ethics? Do journalists, for that matter?

In the specific arena of Romance-related blogging, are reviewers a special sub-community within online blogging, and should there be a special code of conduct for reviewing, regardless of the general character of the blog? Author David Louis Edelman recently posted a list of things he wants from reviews, namely that they be honest, insightful, opinionated, detailed, original accurate, independent, not anonymous, and free of spoilers. Would the institution of something like this as a reviewer standard benefit reviews, which are, by nature, individual opinions? Why, for example, should reviewers always steer clear of spoilers if a spoiler is necessary in elucidating one of the detailed points Edelman wants in reviews? And how much detail is enough in a review? Under his standards, neither Romantic Times nor Publishers Weekly would qualify, I’m afraid, and yet they continue to serve as standard benchmarks for authors.

Should bloggers who make money blogging be held to a different standard? We often talk about how authors are professionals, how they are writing for money, and as such should accept a certain amount of straightjacketing in their online conduct. Should so-called professional bloggers have similar "professional expectations?" And what about amateur bloggers whose only capital is their reputation as bloggers, who are not making money, but who may gain a certain readership based on a positive reputation, whatever that may be based on (humor, reviews, honest dialogue, whatever).

As a blog reader – whether you are author, reader, fellow blogger, whatever – do you feel that there should be minimum ethical standards of conduct to which blogs should be held? What do you expect from the blogs you frequent, and do you give more validity to blogs that proclaim some ethical standard of their own, or are you simply looking for entertainment, ethical standards be damned?

My own view – not fully considered and open to reconsideration — is that the role of blogs is to provoke discussion, and that even more than authors, bloggers are individual voices that are not part of a professional group. So while anyone who writes has to be conscious of plagiarism and copyright concerns, in terms of some collective code of behavior bloggers are merely public citizens (and I use this in the most general way, not to imply national identity), and should be held to the same basic standards of any member of society. One important caveat, though: if someone is blogging in their capacity as a professional, then they may be held to different standards, depending on their professional context and their content

Most bloggers seem to be hobbyists, though, and not inclined toward professionalization in regard to blogging. One blogger or a thousand can all talk simultaneously without any of us being in contact or affiliation, in the same way that a thousand different conversations can proceed at once without any concept of them being linked. At a basic level, blog = voice(s), regardless of the actual people behind the blog. Authors, on the other hand, do not distill down to that same level. Book = voice, but an author functions on multiple levels, as individual, as professional, as contractor with a publisher, etc. I believe, therefore, that authors have responsibilities to one another that bloggers don’t. For example, if an author engages in reshelving books, s/he is violating the policies of bookstores and publishers, as well as engaging in an unfair practice relative to other authors. Whereas bloggers, especially not-for-profit bloggers, don’t have that same kind of mutual professional reliance because our role as a blogger is synonymous with the blog itself. Blogs are more like books, in my opinion, and do we hold books to a professional code of ethics? Do we accuse them of being mean and of lying?

Essentially, I believe that blogs function as sites of public discourse, and that their popularity, value, and reliability will be determined on the basis of individual blog (and the persona of the blogger) relative to the blog’s audience. And despite the belief that bloggers can and do basically say anything they want without thought, I actually think there is a dearth of really good, really challenging, really fearless public conversation online, and that it sometimes takes a very provocative, even polarizing and sensationalistic voice to get some of these discussions going.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

82 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 04:12:33

    Do we need some community standards of reporting and reviewing? – No

    Do bloggers constitute a community separate and apart from the online community more generally? – No

    Should bloggers who make money blogging be held to a different standard? – Yes. Because they’re de facto journalists.

    Are reviewers a special sub-community within online blogging – yes

    Should there be a special code of conduct for reviewing, regardless of the general character of the blog? – No. Everyone’s idea of good reviewing differs and it’s up to the consumer to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    Bloggers are individual voices that are not part of a professional group – agree

    It sometimes takes a very provocative, even polarizing and sensationalistic voice to get some of these discussions going. – Heartily agree.

    Trying to impose a code of conduct on bloggers would be like herding cats and would lead to a chilling effect. It would be used to silence, to thwart, a way of attacking the messenger and not address the message. Anything that restricts what people can say in their own space on their own dime, is crazy (the usual exemptions for legality etc.) How many authors would love to shut you guys down? Or Karen Scott? Or Mrs Giggles when she ran her blog? It’s bad enough that you have so many ‘nice girls’ laying down the law about what you can and cannot do in pursuit of the truth and fair play, because being mannerly is somehow more valuable than being honest. If that was codified and enforceable, the only blogs in Romance land would be fluffy drivel, and worthless.

    To anyone upset with the ‘mean girls’ or what you do or how you say it, to them I say – fuck ‘em. We need more Dear Authors not fewer.

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  2. Nora Roberts
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 05:54:05

    I expect different things from different blogs as any I frequent may–and usually does–have a different tone and/or scope. If I don’t care for that tone and/or scope I’m free not to go there. Just like a reader is free not to buy a certain book or author.

    What I expect overall is opinion–and in my choice of blogs–information and entertainment. I’m free to disagree with that opinion and say so, just as all are free to disagree with the blogger or any of those who comment.

    If information is offered on a blog, I expect that information to be accurate. If it fails to be accurate, I’d expect the blog to correct the mistake.

    Opinion is a different matter. The style of expressing opinion will, I think, determine the blog’s audience.

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  3. Ann Somerville
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 06:05:34

    If it fails to be accurate, I'd expect the blog to correct the mistake.

    Why? I mean, other than obvious cases where it affects a person or a business. If I were to say on my blog that human beings used to hunt dinosaurs, why should I be accountable for that? Unless I make a pretense of being an authority on a subject – e.g. making up anthropological or palaentological credentials – why should caveat lector not be the rule? It is on Wikipedia. It is even in print resources. A newspaper can choose to print an erratum, but it can only be forced to if someone is directly harmed by the misinformation.

    I believe that people have to exercise caution and judgement with internet sources and opinions and ‘facts’ same as information derived from any other media. With an amateur population of bloggers, the reader has no rights and should have no entitlement other than what they would offer in the same situation. This is what pisses me off when people come charging over to this or any other blog demanding posts be taken down, or statements retracted. They don’t have any right to make such a claim and I don’t think they should be encouraged to think they do.

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  4. Emmy
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 07:07:15

    If I were to say on my blog that human beings used to hunt dinosaurs, why should I be accountable for that?

    Why should anyone be accountable for anything they say? Why not just get rid of slander and libel laws and just do whatever? Why shouldn’t Victoria Laurie be able to blog about anyone she wants and call them ‘insane’? Why can’t DAM just attack anyone who fails to worship at the altar of her awesomeness?

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  5. Nora Roberts
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 07:21:41

    ~Why? I mean, other than obvious cases where it affects a person or a business~

    I suppose this is primarily what I’m talking about–as we’re on a blog that gives information and opinion on my business.

    Plus, I want accurate information. If I go to a blog or site that offers loads of bull, I’ll expect the bull–and won’t credit anything offered there. Which, unless entertaining, would be a waste of my time.

    It’s just my opinion, but I believe people are, or should be, accountable for what they say, and what they post on the internet. And I’d add that it’s my opinion if more felt the same, there would be less crap to wade through.

    And the article asked what we expect. This is what I expect–and therefore how I judge a blog or bloggers.

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  6. Marianne McA
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 07:50:38

    the reader has no rights and should have no entitlement other than what they would offer in the same situation. This is what pisses me off when people come charging over to this or any other blog demanding posts be taken down,

    Ann, I think I disagree. If this blog takes a moral (might be ethical, I’m lost) stand on issues, I think it then becomes accountable itself.
    Dear Author campaigns, and asks it’s readership to campaign, and I’d argue that that gives the readership rights. We become part of the process.
    So if DA asks me to sign a petition that says humans never hunted dinosaurs, and then later posts a blog about the good old days when Neolithic man speared Tyrannosaurus Rex, I have the right to be pissed.

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  7. JulieLeto
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 07:52:40

    People not being held accountable for what they say in a public forum? Where’s the logic of that?

    If you say it, own it. If you’re wrong, admit it.

    I know that I would not frequent a blog that did not live by this very basic, near golden rule. And I’d think anyone who did frequent it was a moron. Hence my opinion of those people who give “attagirls” to the DAMs and VLs of the world.

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  8. JC
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 08:05:00

    “Do bloggers constitute a community separate and apart from the online community more generally?” – No, not bloggers per-se, but I think people who post information on the internet are a different community than the people who simply get information and entertainment from the internet. And within the blogger community (or online posting community in general, like fanfiction, discussion boards, etc.) there are sub communities that I think ARE separate and apart from the online community. Some of these communities are quite small, and (for the most part) regulate themselves socially, with people who break social values being shunned or rejected. But the larger communities can be a problem, where people are not accountable for what they write, and that is where problems arise.

    “Should bloggers who make money blogging be held to a different standard?” – Yes. Because it’s their job. Are they held to a different standard? Sometimes, I think. Especially when they could loose their revenue or readers if they don’t hold themselves to higher standards. But then, amateur bloggers can also loose their readership if they do something too out of line.

    “Are reviewers a special sub-community within online blogging” – yes, but In the sense that they form their own sub-communities, just like there are communities of people who love knitting stuffed animals.

    “Should there be a special code of conduct for reviewing, regardless of the general character of the blog?” – Perhaps. I have to think on this more, but my instinct is that it would be nice if there was an agreement (and perhaps there is) where online reviewers could opt into- and get a seal of approval. But it should be optional, and I’m not sure how it would be regulated. The goal of this agreement would not be to restrict bloggers, but to protect individuals from the collective power that a group of people (especially online) can have over an individual. Which is why it is so important that everyone should be accountable for what they say, because misrepresenting the truth, or plain out lying can be very, very harmful on not only a professional, but social and emotional level.

    “Bloggers are individual voices that are not part of a professional group” – this is very true.

    “It sometimes takes a very provocative, even polarizing and sensationalistic voice to get some of these discussions going.” – Very true. But this can be achieved while still staying within a code of ethics, whatever that may be.

    “Trying to impose a code of conduct on bloggers would be like herding cats and would lead to a chilling effect. It would be used to silence, to thwart, a way of attacking the messenger and not address the message. Anything that restricts what people can say in their own space on their own dime, is crazy (the usual exemptions for legality etc.)”- I am reminded of one of my political science courses and On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. It is true that “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign,” and should stay that way. But, there should be repercussions for when people do harm. What that harm is, and what those repercussions should be is something I would have to think on more. But just as the individual is very important, so should we be wary of a “tyranny of the majority.” Bloggers are a powerful force, especially when united, and it is very easy to have the more fringe people be drowned out by the collective will.

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  9. Jessica
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 08:18:27

    You raise some great questions Jayne. Here’s my two cents:

    I think the ethical standards for bloggers are pretty much the same as for everyone else. Treat others as you wish to be treated, i.e., with respect.

    Accountability for bloggers is basically the same as for everyone else: you’ll get told by folks if you’re wrong or unfair, eventually they’ll stop reading (these are the informal social sanctions). If you go too far over the line, there may be formal sanctions, such as legal trouble.

    Codes of ethics may be useful in clarifying a profession’s ideal view of itself, but it is hard enough to get agreement on a code among a group of people who have been educated and trained in the same way to do the same thing (i.e. nurses): I can’t imagine what the procedure would be for a motley group like bloggers.

    Moreover, codes of ethics are not generally effective in policing the behavior of group members, even on an informal basis.

    I share your view that bloggers have an important role that requires their independence from the industry (which is not to say that there isn’t also an important function for industry connected bloggers).

    A question for me is to what extent blogs that rely on industry support (in simple forms like ARCs, or more significantly, in ad space, or in providing livelihoods for the blogger), can be independent.

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  10. Jessica
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 08:27:15

    oops — JANET, I meant Janet! Sorry!

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  11. Julie
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 09:00:24

    And despite the belief that bloggers can and do basically say anything they want without thought, I actually think there is a dearth of really good, really challenging, really fearless public conversation online, and that it sometimes takes a very provocative, even polarizing and sensationalistic voice to get some of these discussions going.

    You have a good point there. Sadly, some people equate “fearless” and “provocative” with “mean” and “libelous.” This extends to both sides of the writer/reader relationship. Some mean-spirited people think that online abuse is “provocative.” (The answer, I suspect, is for readers to vote with their mice [would LOLCats approve? ;-)] and for bloggers to have a solid comment policy.) The other problem is the seemingly constant stream of people screaming threats of lawsuits. I was on a board the other day and one poster made a factual error. Another poster immediately screamed “libel!” Between that and people filing SLAPP suits, it’s no wonder some bloggers act as though they’re treading on crushed glass. Most of us don’t have a lawyer (and the money to go to court) to back us up.

    I hope that made sense. I’m seriously considering a second pot of coffee this morning!

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  12. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 09:09:32

    If I were to say on my blog that human beings used to hunt dinosaurs, why should I be accountable for that?

    Why should anyone be accountable for anything they say? Why not just get rid of slander and libel laws and just do whatever? Why shouldn't Victoria Laurie be able to blog about anyone she wants and call them ‘insane'? Why can't DAM just attack anyone who fails to worship at the altar of her awesomeness?

    Dang, Emmy…lol…. I love you.

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  13. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 09:25:32

    I don’t really think those who blog/review as a hobby…as in not making a profit, should be held to some sort of professional ethics code.

    If they are professional reviewers/bloggers, then yeah, I expect a bit more from them.

    Cyberjournalist.net created a proposed Bloggers' Code of Ethics that emphasizes three main categories: Be Honest and Fair; Minimize Harm; and Be Accountable

    I think this is would be ideal, but it’s also something I think people in general should try to do-it’s simple courtesy.

    Most people want to be treated honestly and fairly.
    Most people don’t want Persona B going around doing things with the sole, spiteful intent of causing people harm.
    Most people want others to step up to the plate and be accountable when they’ve done or said something that was either inaccurate, outright false, or when they’ve done something wrong.

    I say most because there are always dissenters.

    But this is what we would like from others. Do we expect it? Sadly, it’s getting harder and harder to expect people to treat you with respect, even though you try to treat others with respect.

    It’s like being disrespectful and/or outright belligerent behavior has become the norm-and I’m not talking about those who question the status quo. It’s the people who either consciously or unconsciously trample all over others, and then get irked with they receive similar behavior.

    But I’m rambling.

    No, I don’t expect John (or Jane) Q Reviewer to hold to the same standards I’d see in a blog run by the NYT.

    However, if I’m at a blog that’s constantly insulting, belittling, spreading false information without bothering to correct things when it becomes clear the information IS false, being spiteful and malicious, etc…etc…. ETC, well, that blog isn’t going to come up on my regular list of places to visit.

    I like honest blogs. I like blogs where the bloggers are accountable and willing to own up to it when they’ve made mistakes. I like blogs where the reviewers try to be fair and I like blogs where they don’t think humor and cruelty are interchangeable.

    edited…typos, what else is new…sigh…

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  14. Anion
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 09:30:43

    See…I’m in a bit of a muddle over this anonymity/responsibility thing.

    Yes, I think people should own their words. But I also think in some cases discretion is the better part of valor.

    For example, authors published with a small publisher (or, heck, a large one) who is going under or where there are problems. They make those problems worse for themselves by publicly complaining; they open themselves up to personal attacks and to retribution from said publisher and/or other authors with that publisher. But at the same time the information they provide is helpful to others. Why should they be forced to “go public”, when it could harm them? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to tell what they know, to help others, without harming themselves?

    I’m pseudonymous here for a reason, because I wanted to give honest feedback on Query Saturdays without worrying I was going to get nasty emails or a reputation as a big old bitch. I personally don’t think I’ve ever been rude or nasty when commenting on queries or pages, and I hope no one else has found my comments to be so, but I’ve been around the internet block enough times to know that what I think is honest, helpful feedback can be taken the wrong way by a sensitive new writer. Heck, look at the nastiness aimed at readers for daring to express an opinion of a published work. That’s not something I want or need aimed at me, frankly, and given a choice between saying nothing and thus denying my advice (which, hey, I’m not saying I’m an expert, not at all, but people ask for feedback and take the time to send it in so I kind of feel like I should comment if I have anything new to say, in the name of giving them as much feedback as possible–I’ve been a newbie waiting anxiously for comments myself) to the author of the piece, or giving honest feedback under my own name and having something taken the wrong way, I picked option C. It’s not because I’m saying things of which I’m ashamed, but because you never know who’s out there.

    I don’t have a problem with bloggers being anonymous either. Frankly I think anonymity for safety is a good thing.

    I don’t post anonymously here under any name but this one. I don’t post anonymously just to snark or be rude and I don’t create sock puppets to stand up for me. But I do feel more comfortable giving feedback and participating in some discussions under a pseudonym, because I feel I can add more to the discussion that way. I can easily imagine a blogger wanting to create a blog for reviews and/or commentary under a pseudonym simply because they don’t want it to create issues in their real life. And I think the torch-mob “You should be honest about your name!” stuff can get a little much sometimes.

    I don’t usually give out my real name in public either, to be honest–it’s not like I wear a name tag. It’s nobody’s business. And I don’t get into controversial discussions with strangers in public either, which is what we do sometimes here. If I did get into those discussions in public, you bet I’d give people a fake name. I like my privacy.

    If that means I shouldn’t comment here anymore, I won’t. I comment because the discussions interest me and I feel I have something to add to them. But I also think I should have the right to stay pseudonymous in those discussions, because although I never deliberately try to offend, you also never know how someone might take what you say, and I don’t care to have a target on my chest–or on my books.

    Just my take on it. I think we should all think before we speak, and I’m not suggesting a violent, rude free-for-all. But I think there are good reasons to post anonymously or pseudonymously, and I’m not ashamed of that.

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  15. Gail
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 09:54:57

    As soon as there is some governing body with the power to enforce rules of conduct on the internet, they own it.

    There is a professional site I visit because I find useful information presented by the site owners. The first commenter on almost every article is consistently strident person who proudly believes she is a professional. Following her link it's obvious that is a very inflated opinion, but it's hers. She has a right to it. I get to choose to ignore her offensive remarks.

    Any Freedom is risky. It's all about letting the people who hold views we hate talk as loud as the people who hold views we feel are sacred. The uniting thing about freedom is, people are willing to die for it.

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  16. Rebecca Goings
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 10:25:18

    Blogs are one of the fastest methods of getting news out to the masses in a relatively short amount of time. A professional who blogs under their own name, regardless of their profession, has to watch what they say. If they get a fact wrong or express an unpopular opinion, then that little tidbit of information spreads amongst the blogosphere like wildfire. In that way, blogs are viral.

    By the time you get to do a little damage control, ie. erase your post, delete it, retract your statement, it’s too late, as any blogger worth their salt can pull up the Internet cache on your post and still spread it to all and sundry.

    How many bloggers were buzzing about the Cassie Edwards debacle? Countless, I’m sure. And DAM was everywhere I looked. Now, the news of the moment is VL. You can’t get past freedom of speech if you try to lay down the “ethics” law for bloggers, and unfortunately, that gives voice to many a village idiot. That old adage, ‘everyone’s a critic’ is oh-so-true. And the anonymity of the Internet means that people who might keep quiet in public are more likely to express their opinion online. When you’re anonymous, courtesy and ethics seem to fly out the window. For some people, at least.

    ~~Becka

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  17. Jessa Slade
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 10:36:21

    I, like Nora, read blogs mostly as a source of people’s opinions. Heck, I consider the whole Internets mostly opinion since reliability is often hard to establish.

    That said, even people who are “only” giving their opinion should be held to basic standards of human decency. Specifically, truth, fairness, and reasonable punctuation.

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  18. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 10:42:26

    Specifically, truth, fairness, and reasonable punctuation.

    Snicker….I think we need that on a bumper sticker.

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  19. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 10:54:32

    I’ve disagreed with some of the “authors behaving badly” posts, but I stand by any blogger’s right to voice their opinion, anonymously or however. Strong views and juicy controversies make this site more interesting.

    I don’t think we need a blogger code of ethics, but the whole “nice girl/mean girl” thing makes me cringe a bit. I sometimes feel as though expressing my opinion puts me in the dreaded “nice girl” category. I might be as uncomfortable with that as others are with “mean girl.”

    I’d like to agree/disagree without those labels.

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  20. EssieLou
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 11:20:41

    I agree with Anion that anonymity for safety is more common sense. I’ve seen bad things happen to real life people because of their web activities. Bosses called & jobs lost, family members stalked, embarassing personal issues revealed, pictures of bloggers homes posted etc. I’ve known people scared so badly they slept with a gun by their bed, because their real life information got out on the web.

    I’ve known one site that existed totally to ‘out’ folks they didn’t like and scare them so badly they quit posting on the web. That was their goal. BTW, they saw themselves as ethical because they were removing ‘bad’ people from the web.

    As for the ethics of a blog, it’s like the wild west, the rules are made by who’s in charge of Dodge at the time. One woman’s ‘honesty’ it’s another’s ‘mean girl’. And I’ve been on both sides of that equasion. Especially when it comes to something as subjective as books, which is why I ignore reviews by people I don’t know (or avoid books reviewed by some I do know).

    To me reviews are more “I like apples so if you like apples you’ll like this book” than “This is the best book in the world and everyone should love it!” which is more a value judgement verus taste.

    So again, so maybe it’s more like the minimum and most basic of honest behaviors in the individuals posting. Also avoiding the “Queen Bee” Syndrome by staying on target with what a site is truly about and not letting your personal views flow over into the structure of the forum.

    Anyhow, as far as ethics versus morals…I’ve always understood it to be an ethical spouse knows it’s wrong to be unfaithful, but it’s the moral one that doesn’t cheat.

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  21. azteclady
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 11:29:22

    The anonymous commenting/posting side discussion reminded me of this post at Karen’s. My long comment still sums up how I feel about the matter and why I use azteclady pretty much everywhere online.

    If I say it, I own it. I make every effort to be consistent in my life, which extends to my online interactions. If and when I change my way of thinking on something, I acknowledge the shift.

    For the most part, I don’t expect anything from any blog or forum when I first visit; once I have spend some time getting to know the people behind the screen names, then I know whether to expect honesty, gushing, sarcasm, etc. I leave or return to each blog accordingly.

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  22. azteclady
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 11:29:54

    The anonymous commenting/posting side discussion reminded me of this post at Karen’s. My long comment still sums up how I feel about the matter and why I use azteclady pretty much everywhere online.

    If I say it, I own it. I make every effort to be consistent in my life, which extends to my online interactions. If and when I change my way of thinking on something, I acknowledge the shift.

    For the most part, I don’t expect anything from any blog or forum when I first visit; once I have spend some time getting to know the people behind the screen names, then I know whether to expect honesty, gushing, sarcasm, etc. I leave or return to each blog accordingly.

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  23. Moth
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 11:35:42

    I can easily imagine a blogger wanting to create a blog for reviews and/or commentary under a pseudonym simply because they don't want it to create issues in their real life. And I think the torch-mob “You should be honest about your name!” stuff can get a little much sometimes.

    I agree. I absolutely support the right to anonymity. There would not have been Miss Snark otherwise, and as caustic as she could be sometimes she did have valuable advice for authors.

    And don’t outlaw my spoilers! There are books, movies, all kinds of stuff I never would have read without spoilers. And spoilers have saved me many a time from reading something that probably would have turned out to be SO not my cuppa 9anything with a graphic rape for example). If something like that is in a book I want to be able to find out. And, as pointed out, sometimes a spoiler is needed to make a point about a fatal flaw in a book. My take is as long as there are proper warnings before the spoilers that they’re there it’s not a problem.

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  24. Susan/DC
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 11:40:40

    Janet said:

    Blogs are more like books, in my opinion, and do we hold books to a professional code of ethics? Do we accuse them of being mean and of lying?

    You’ve kind of lost me here. I thought we did hold books to certain standards of truth, hence the brouhaha over James Frey’s “Million Little Pieces”. And all of the authors castigated for plagiarism, whether in fiction or non-fiction, were guilty of lying about whether the work was theirs, even if the words in the unattributed quotes were true.

    JC said:

    But just as the individual is very important, so should we be wary of a “tyranny of the majority.” Bloggers are a powerful force, especially when united, and it is very easy to have the more fringe people be drowned out by the collective will.

    I also worry about the tyranny of the minority. As noted by others, nothing truly disappears from the Web, and lies or out-of-context statements can continue to wreak havoc long after they would have died in hard copy. Those fringe people are much harder to drown out than in the past, which in my opinion is both wonderful and scary.

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  25. MCHalliday
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 11:52:16

    blogger conduct…more specifically whether bloggers need a code of ethics similar to the one we seem to assume of authors

    Considering this question thoroughly, I believe bloggers should follow a code of morals rather than ethics.

    Personal opinion, including the manner of the presented opinion, can be expressed with gentle consideration and invite discussion, not incite it. Even so, there are varying degrees of moral responsibility and conduct, depending on culture and personal history. What triggers intense emotion in some, might be shrugged off by others.

    If it appears a blogger is doing the best they are able with good intention, providing accurate information or interesting topics for discussion, I’m there, err um, here!

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  26. EssieLou
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 12:00:42

    Moth

    …spoilers have saved me many a time from reading something that probably would have turned out to be SO not my cuppa 9anything with a graphic rape for example). If something like that is in a book I want to be able to find out. And, as pointed out, sometimes a spoiler is needed to make a point about a fatal flaw in a book. My take is as long as there are proper warnings before the spoilers that they're there it's not a problem.

    Yep! I read/watch nothing blind or without some idea of what is going to happen. My motto is ‘Surprises are seldom good.’ My biggest disappointments and total wastes of time were the few times I didn’t check something out before hand.

    Also, it can be something very personal that can ruin a book or movie for you, so your right to spoilers is simply a bit of self preservation or healthy avoidance at times. (like me warning a friend who’s son committed suicide in their home to not watch a certain TV show)

    You might avoid one book by an author to continue to read others versus being so hurt or put off that you refuse to ever read them again. So spoilers can save the author readers in the end.

    I agree that as long as spoilers are clearly labeled, they should, in fact, must be allowed.

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  27. Julia Sullivan
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 12:05:51

    I think anonymity is a good choice for many people, in many contexts.

    And if other people choose to dismiss all anonymously-expressed opinions, that’s their choice to make.

    David Louis Edelman can ask for all the ponies he wants, but it’s not up to him how many ponies people choose to give him.

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  28. Jessa Slade
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 12:24:26

    Those fringe people are much harder to drown out than in the past, which in my opinion is both wonderful and scary.

    So true. I have a friend who wishes we spent 80% of our resources on the things 80% of us agree on, in politics, in our personal lives, etc. But it’s the fringes where advancement takes place, so…

    I just always hope that the “truth” really will out in a free and open marketplace of ideas.

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  29. Sara Reinke
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 12:53:51

    If you say it, own it. If you're wrong, admit it.

    This is brilliant advice. I think it sums up my feelings exactly.

    I believe that blogs can serve an important function in that they allow for a public forum in which participants can exchange points of view in a frank and often candid fashion. While I also believe that the ability to post anonymously gives some the empowerment to speak with more candor or fervor than they might ordinarily, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

    Personally, I’m of the frame of mind where if I have something to say, I say it. Like the post above said, I own up to it. If I’m wrong, I do my best to admit and make amends. Hell, I’m generally the first to say when I’m wrong about something.

    But life isn’t a Disney movie, so I know everyone doesn’t behave that way. I think Shiloh summed it up perfectly, that most people want and do treat each other courteously, and do their best to look out for each other — both on the internet and in real life. But there are unfortunately always bullies in the world. I feel that thanks to the internet — specifically to the power of blogs like Dear Author, Karen Knows Best, the Smart Bitches, etc. — readers and writers alike can be empowered. They can learn about bullying behavior, what to do if it happens to them, and be advised of bullies to watch out for. (This is all among a whole host of other benefits I believe reader blogs can offer.)

    Personally, I’ve learned a great deal from watching incidents like these unfold through blogs — primarily the kind of author I DON’T want to be.

    Authors should be professionals. We need to remember this is a buisness, and to behave like business people — in a professional, respectful and courteous manner not only to each other, our publishers and editors, but to our READERS first and foremost, since these are the people who keep us in business.

    Bloggers don’t have to be professionals in this sense but it’s my observation that many of you are, anyway. You’re watchdogs for people who might otherwise have no other place to turn for help or support and teachers to help facilitate a common decorum among authors at large. Oh, and you’re a hell of a lot of fun to read, too. ;)

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  30. SonomaLass
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 13:55:58

    What I want from a blog/blogger is honesty. Be upfront about what you do and how you do it. Then I can figure out if you are my cup of tea or not. For opinion sites (including reviews), I find the voices that I think are intelligent and have something worthwhile to say on a subject that interests me.

    Like Nora, I won’t waste my time on a blog where the author(s) don’t make their best effort to be accurate and admit it when they find they made a mistake. I don’t waste my time on people like that in person, either.

    I think a code of ethics sort of forms itself in a blogging sub-community. Here at DA, over at SBTB, and on most of the blogs I’ve linked to because their authors post comments on these two, I’ve found very similar standards. When I find one that doesn’t measure up, I just don’t go there. I don’t have the energy to be a troll who haunts a site I don’t like just to make trouble.

    Not that I only want to read opinions with which I agree — far from it, I like and need to read a variety of different opinions. But for them to be worth my time and energy, they need to be expressed in a way that I can respect. I think Jessica Slade sums it up best so far:

    even people who are “only” giving their opinion should be held to basic standards of human decency. Specifically, truth, fairness, and reasonable punctuation.

    I absolutely agree that a marketplace of ideas is important, and I think there’s no such thing as too much free speech. The internet in general, and blogging in particular, has opened up new avenues for expression that are wonderful. Part of that wonder is that they are almost impossible to regulate, and that means they are equally impossible to stifle. That’s a good thing, even if some of them are not to my (or anyone else’s) taste.

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  31. Robin
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 15:06:22

    I thought we did hold books to certain standards of truth, hence the brouhaha over James Frey's “Million Little Pieces”. And all of the authors castigated for plagiarism, whether in fiction or non-fiction, were guilty of lying about whether the work was theirs, even if the words in the unattributed quotes were true.

    What I’m trying to get at — imperfectly, at best — is the nature of the expression as opposed to the person who expresses. In the case of Frey, for example, is it the book that tells an untruth or Frey? Are they separate or inseparable? I think these are very difficult questions, because for every definitive answer there is an exception, IMO.

    At some level, of course, text can be incorrect, but can text itself have motive and/or responsibility, or does that accrue solely to the person behind the text? I cannot decide if I think part of the problems we see on the Internet have to do with merging text and writer together or from separating them. To some degree I think we overpersonalize text, which IMO leads to these mean girl/nice girl allegations. And yet text is not free of a source, so it cannot exist solely without a voice behind it. But how do we draw that relationship with bloggers? In a sense, I think there’s an even stronger personalization of bloggers than there is with authors and books. And that this personalization makes it difficult to evaluate text separate from its apparent source.

    I see this, frankly, in the debates over anonymity. I am not generally bothered by anonymous comments, because I don’t really think that a name, per se, makes someone trustworthy, and I think there are many circumstances where anonymity is the only thing that allows certain things to be expressed. With people in my personal life, I am willing to extend trust based on who those people are. In other arenas, from work to various acquaintances to basic online exchange, my ability to trust something based on the source is more and more compromised. However, I think there is something in our interpersonal dynamics that makes us want to be able to evaluate text based on its source. And the idea of interacting with someone under a certain name can create the illusion of trust that is not particularly reliable.

    It is this source – text relationship that I think is largely at issue in these online negotiations. So in the case of Cassie Edwards, for example, are her books dishonest or is she dishonest? Or both? Can a work of fiction be dishonest, or is it the conduct of someone who passes off another’s work as their own that is really dishonest, and if it’s the conduct, then can we separate that from the text itself and the person of the plagiarizing conduct as a way of avoiding all the personal barbs that seem to accompany the discussions we have about Edwards?

    In a way I think we need more of that conscious separation and recognition that there are multiple levels that should be addressed distinctly. There is the text itself, there is the purported source of the text, there is the motive of that source, and there is the reception of any/all of these things. If someone blogs things that are objectionable, does that make the person of the blogger objectionable, or is the content of the blog similar to a book produced by an author? Are there times that we must look at both levels? Absolutely. But even then I think we need to see the differences between what is being said and who is doing the speaking.

    I guess to some degree I’m suggesting that the content of a blog is the product of a blog persona, even though there is a real person behind that persona. Depending on the person and the blog, there may be a stronger or weaker relationship between the actual person and the persona of the blogger. But that in the same way that a book is produced by an author who is mostly persona to the reader, blogs are produced by bloggers who are personae to the reader, too. And that as such, bloggers may engage in some fictionalizing of their personae and in the content of their blog, and that such fictionalizing is not necessarily a comment on the quality or integrity of the person. Now there are still lines that can be crossed, persona or not, lines of defamation and harassment and the like, but those are lines that apply regardless of the relationship between the person of the blogger and the persona of the blogger.

    I doubt I’ve clarified my position, and perhaps have created more confusion, but I guess that all I’m trying to say is that blogging can be a performance similar to the writing of a book, and that we need to recognize that some bloggers are assuming a role, in the same way that an author’s imagination might lead them to create a whole different world in their work. Although if a blogger seeks to incite any type of fraudulent participation of a readership or defamatory or otherwise actionable conduct, then the appropriate forms of accountability should attach, just as they would to anyone.

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  32. Robin
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 15:08:54

    Oh, and I wanted to thank everyone so far for your incredibly thoughtful comments. I have tried not to butt into the discussion very much, since I threw so much out there to begin with, and I like reading the different opinions.

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  33. Ann Somerville
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 15:29:08

    Why should anyone be accountable for anything they say? Why not just get rid of slander and libel laws and just do whatever? Why shouldn't Victoria Laurie be able to blog about anyone she wants and call them ‘insane'? Why can't DAM just attack anyone who fails to worship at the altar of her awesomeness?

    Because these aren’t errors of fact, these are attacks and bullying. It’s absolutely right that when someone’s safety, reputation, or livelihood is being threatened, they should have legal and moral recourse. That’s not the same as getting some impersonal fact wrong. I believe it’s important to distinguish between a blogger’s ordinary moral and legal duty not to say things which cause direct harm to the innocent, and a reader’s moral duty to weigh information presented by non-professionals and do their best to independently verify things. If I say ‘Victoria Laurie is a heinous bitch’ and back it up with copious evidence, then I am being responsible. If I say ‘I am a psychic’ and don’t provide proof, then while no one should be able to compel me to do so, the reader should not take a bald statement like that on face value.

    Hoenstly, Emmy, you know perfectly well what the difference is, and so does Shiloh. I can’t say I’m disappointed in either of you because I’ve come to expect this kind of nonsense in discussions, but it’s impossible to hold a serious conversation with people this determined to misrepresent and misinterpret what’s said. It’s your usual tactic everywhere I’ve seen you post, but it’s really getting old.

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  34. Jane
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 15:48:12

    I wanted to pop in here and add my three cents on a couple of previous issues:

    1. I think bloggers can be independent despite a) advertising; b) getting free books; and c) having industry contacts. I say that because there are plenty of factors that can influence opinion and not all of them are friendship and money. I’m of the opinion that as long as the blogger is transparent about a relationship, be it personal or monetary, then it’s up the reader of the blog to determine bias.

    2. On ABB pieces, I know that there are articles I wrote in the early days of dear author that I probably would not write today because I have a better feel for what I want to make a stand about. I.e., speaking out against authors who take a negative stand toward readers having opinions.

    3. Anonymity on the internet is important and should be protected. You can still have accountability and be anonymous.

    4. Further, I think the issue of community cannot be emphasized enough when determining ethics.

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  35. Robin
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 16:15:34

    I believe it's important to distinguish between a blogger's ordinary moral and legal duty not to say things which cause direct harm to the innocent, and a reader's moral duty to weigh information presented by non-professionals and do their best to independently verify things.

    This is part of what I was trying to say in my last post, but couldn’t spit out with near this level of clarity.

    Also, I wanted to make another comment related to accountability and voice, a point that I’ve been thinking about especially in light of the sub-discussion currently occurring on the Victoria Laurie thread.

    One of the things I struggle with all the time is how to manage what I know is a loud voice I possess with my right to speak. In other words, one of the things I see a lot of is this confusion between speaking loudly and ordering someone. Those of us with loud voices are often seen as imposing our will or our opinion, even of bullying in some cases. Strong expressions can be interpreted as the exertion of verbal force. Everyone has a slightly different tolerance as far as strong opinions go, although I’d like to think we can draw some pretty bright lines between arguing strongly, even acrimoniously, and harassing, threatening, etc. Although I realize that in the end each of us can only conform to our own standards of what’s right and wrong, what conduct is okay and not.

    Still, I think there is a certain fear of strong opinions, especially strong controversial opinions, and IMO that fear can really chill important discussion. Which is one more reason I tend to support a broad tolerance for online voices. Because even though you do get the extremes in both directions, the more accustomed people get to open, forthright discussion, the more able, I believe, they are to distinguish among different tones, levels of accuracy, levels of honesty, etc.

    Further, I’d really like to know what people mean when they opine that people on the Internet have no accountability. What kind of accountability are people proposing? Legal accountability? Because ironically, I’ve often felt that people who really do have cause to take some kind of legal action against another don’t pursue it, while those who don’t have a leg to stand on are liberal in throwing around threats to sue. And of course it’s those ridiculous threats that can, once again chill speech, because do you really think it’s the kooks that get scared off by those things? And if it’s ethical/moral responsibility, I would ask if there’s a special sense of accountability for what people say online beyond what we expect of strangers in real life?

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  36. sallahdog
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 16:29:46

    Not an author or a blogger, just someone who spends wayyy too much time surfing them…

    I read a lot of different blogs in the book sphere, and I even read one that tends to attack DA and other review sites as “mean girls”…. The thing for me is, I can take the good and understand that two people will see a situation completely differently and not be lieing about it… I tend to appreciate different points of view (even those I completely disagree with)… I think there are enough laws in this country as it is… and codes of ethics are widely disregarded.. I use my own judgement and when I find someone (to quote the other day, lol) “batshit crazy” I just click away…

    I have personally never gotten why the need to go to a site that is painful to you.. and don’t have a shit load of sympathy if you keep going there and get your panties all in a wad…

    Authors are public personas, and they have a responsibility to their bottom line not to act like idiots, but they still have that freedom. Just as bloggers who want to have a long run need to look at it the same way… I have quit reading quite a few bloggers ,who have jumped the line from “thought provoking to paranoid and delusional” (this is not just in the book blogging arena)

    If you truly constantly jump the line into libel territory, sooner or later, someone is going to catch you up by the short and curlies… as it should be…

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  37. sallahdog
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 16:37:08

    Like Nora, I won't waste my time on a blog where the author(s) don't make their best effort to be accurate and admit it when they find they made a mistake. I don't waste my time on people like that in person, either

    Not to pick on anyone, but that is a pretty grey area. Because from the “mean girlz” discussions alone, I can see where two bloggers can have diametrically opposed viewpoints and neither one of them is necessarily “wrong”…. Some people are a lot more sensitive to percieved “niceness” while others don’t give a rats ass about couching their opinions in niceties… So you get a lot of discussions about, “Its not what you say, but how you say it” (which I find personally exhausting)…

    Lets face it, two people can look at the sky, one will call it blue, another Dark grey… Ones looking at the clear sky and the other is looking at the storm coming their way… All a matter of perspective…

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  38. Monica Burns
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 16:40:25

    Before I earned my Spin Doctor title, I studied to be a journalist. I switched majors when I saw sensationalism regaining its grip on the media because their budgets were being tied to ratings and ad dollars. Thus ethics is a big deal to me. I don't always get it right, but I'm very cognizant of it no matter what I post where. Blogs for me are a double-edged sword because blogs are opinion pages. They are a beautiful example of what true freedom of speech is about no matter how hateful, disgusting, enlightening, inspirational, infuriating or helpful.

    When it comes to blogs posting personal opinions, I don't think a code of conduct should be required. It would be nice if everyone had integrity, but that's unrealistic. A Code of Conduct stamp might reassure readers visiting a blog (Good Blogging Seal), but I think that should be a blog owner(s) choice. My habit is to visit blogs that operate under rules of integrity and ethical mores that are plainly visible in their postings.

    For me, the issue becomes convoluted when a blog wades into the journalism arena either by design or slow migration. When a blog acts in a journalistic capacity, as opposed to simply expressing an opinion, I believe the blog owes its readership a guarantee that the facts being presented have been dutifully vetted. And by vetted, I mean more than a single, unnamed source, which is corroborated by another unnamed (individual or documentation) source. That and the named source should have a certain stature in the community that the blogger participates in.

    I also think a blog needs to distinguish whether it's just reporting facts or whether it's expressing opinion. This is one of my biggest “beefs” with some sites. I'm expected to believe, without question, someone else's word that isn't corroborated elsewhere. I believe there's always two sides to every story, and I want both sides so I can form a fair and impartial opinion about a matter. I'm amazed at how often opinion is posted as fact on some blogs with little concern for its impact on people. It's irresponsible, and I'm tired of people not being accountable for their actions.

    With all that said…
    Reviewers are expressing opinion. Opinion is freedom of speech and I support it no matter how repugnant.

    Bloggers making money. I had one statement all ready to go here about how yeah they should have a code, and then I thought about blogs that make money and yet provide a certain type of blog experience. If they were held to a code of conduct, then their particular blog experience, say the unapologetic blog of a Rush Limbaugh or a Jon Stewart, might no longer be the same because of the code. So I'd have to say no and just avoid the snarky places that take ads.

    actually think there is a dearth of really good, really challenging, really fearless public conversation online, and that it sometimes takes a very provocative, even polarizing and sensationalistic voice to get some of these discussions going.

    I agree, and there's also a dearth of commenting where opposing opinions are not respected. For me, the beauty of debate is to see if either party comes away learning something new about themselves. I appreciate debate more when people espouse their opinion with respect, don't pass off their opinion as fact, and are willing to accept that they might not always be right.

    Personally, I'm of the frame of mind where if I have something to say, I say it. Like the post above said, I own up to it. If I'm wrong, I do my best to admit and make amends. Hell, I'm generally the first to say when I'm wrong about something.

    Sara, THIS is precisely why I loved you from the first minute we met in San Fran!!

    To some degree I think we overpersonalize text, which IMO leads to these mean girl/nice girl allegations. And yet text is not free of a source, so it cannot exist solely without a voice behind it. But how do we draw that relationship with bloggers? In a sense, I think there's an even stronger personalization of bloggers than there is with authors and books. And that this personalization makes it difficult to evaluate text separate from its apparent source.

    I'm not sure I'm understanding this thread correctly (although I'm loving how deep you go in evaluating the whole thing! An analytical girl after my own heart! LOL). IMHO, when someone puts words on a blog they're throwing out their thoughts and opinions and for me that is very personal. Even if the blog is done in a responsible manner, the personalization exists because opinion by its very nature is personal. However, not all fiction (if any) can be classified as opinion, which makes it less personal.

    Some authors might believe their work is made personal by the fact they wrote it, and yet it's not crafted as opinion, its written to entertain. So while author voice is recognizable between story A, B or C, any reaction it elicits from the reader is based on tastes vs. a structured belief system which is where opinion is generally formed. Opinion will naturally elicit one of three responses, for, against or neutral/unsure reaction. A work of fiction elicits similar responses, but not because of the opinion itself. So a work of fiction is designed to work for the reader and its in a way personalized for specific readers (target market). Opinion, however, isn't about the reader, it's about the blogger, which does personalize the text that's posted. Ok, I'm now ready to go reread a psych 101 book. *grin*

    EXCELLENT TOPIC Janet!!!

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  39. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 17:10:29

    Blogs are more like books, in my opinion, and do we hold books to a professional code of ethics? Do we accuse them of being mean and of lying?

    Blogs, from what I understand, aren’t works of fiction, and bloggers are real people. In a novel, poem, song lyrics, whatever, the speaker is a character. Sure, we can say lyrics are offensive or that a certain book is crap, but it would be odd for someone to say, “I disagree with serial killer villains, because murder is wrong.”

    On the other hand, if a blogger says, “I’m going to kill you,” they are expressing a real (and scary) thought, not assuming the identity of a fictional character. Right?

    So, no, blogs are not like books for me.

    If I say I disagree with your blog, I mean I disagree with the opinions expressed in your blog entry.

    I’m confusing myself now. Have to go rest.

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  40. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 19:28:43

    Hoenstly, Emmy, you know perfectly well what the difference is, and so does Shiloh.

    What I said was….

    lol, Emmy…I love you.

    That’s all I said. I like her admittedly odd sense of humor but that doesn’t mean I agree with her–doesn’t mean I don’t, though either.

    My apologies that I didn’t clarify-I’ll do that now.

    I don’t really see the parallels quite as she drew them-this isn’t anything new. I often disagree with Emmy’s point of view.

    But I also don’t agree with your initial comment back up in post 3 that Emmy referenced:

    Why? I mean, other than obvious cases where it affects a person or a business. If I were to say on my blog that human beings used to hunt dinosaurs, why should I be accountable for that?

    Yes, her comment amused me and while I don’t agree with her parallel, I can see where she’s coming from–if a person says something, as somebody else said up in thread,

    -say it, own it-

    Do I consider it an author going ballistic is in the same category as a somebody posting inaccurate information and not being accountable when it’s pointed out their information is wrong? Bullying another the same as misleading people, whether intentionally or unintentionally?

    No. But I do see these actions as something people should be accountable for.

    People should be accountable-for their actions, for their words. Whether it’s a business, somebody that blogs for a hobby, a journalist, whatever, I believe people should take responsibility for their actions, both good and bad.

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  41. Ann Somerville
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 19:41:48

    -say it, own it-

    I’m confused. I’m not saying someone should make palpably wrong statements of fact on a site anonymously (although, in fact, why should anyone pay attention to what ‘Ann Somerville’ says on her blog over what ‘Cheezedix’ say on Wikipedia – both are pseuds), or that other people should be banned from offering correction. I’m saying, absent actual harm to a person or business or reputation, insisting on accuracy on the internet is like fucking for virginity. I might say humans hunted dinosaurs because I’m a fundamentalist Creationist (which I am not, let me hasten to add.) If Nora or you come along and say, hey, that’s stupid and wrong, fix it, I don’t think I should be compelled to change something that is (a) contrary to my own belief (b) in my own space and (c) not hurting anyone (other than someone stupid enough to believe it without checking.)

    Accountability should be restricted to what is potentially damaging. Innocently wrong or stupid remarks are just a hazard of the internet, and amateur media all over.

    The answer to errors in blogs is to allow commenting, which I am completely in favour of. But then it’s up to commenters to respect that they have no inherent right to use someone else’s platform to bash them or their views. Ultimately, while free speech is the best answer to wrong speech, people should recognise there is no legal or moral right to free speech in every forum.

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  42. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 20:01:46

    Accountability should be restricted to what is potentially damaging. Innocently wrong or stupid remarks are just a hazard of the internet, and amateur media all over.

    I think that’s going to be a point we’d have to disagree on. I take pretty much anything online with a grain of salt, and I’d hope others would, as well.

    But the example of being a fundamentalist, Christian, atheist, any other kind of -ist is going to come down to personal belief systems.

    That’s not the same as stating something like the Roman Empire fell in the year 912 A.D. on a blog, and then having a commenter point out No, actually it was around 400 A.D., and then instead of taking a few minutes to check, the blogger ignores it.

    The responsible, adult way to handle it would be to check, and if the blogger realizes their info was wrong, just throw a quick correction out there.

    Is it required? No.

    But a little more accountability in the world would be a good thing.

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  43. Ann Somerville
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 20:28:39

    a little more accountability in the world would be a good thing.

    The only realistic accountability is what people bring by exposing the error. Anything else is unenforceable, and frankly, undesirable. Do I believe, personally, that I should never state something I can’t back up or am prepared to correct or apologise for? Yes. Do I think I should be able to make other people live up to that? No. I reserve the right to mock, parody, post in correction and attempt to offer advice where welcomed, but it’s not my job to fix all the stupid in the world – only the stupid I see and care about. ‘Accountability’ has no meaning without sanction, and sanctions in these cases would be far more dangerous than the original error.

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  44. Emmy
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 20:39:19

    I love you too, Shi♥♥♥

    Even if you do always disagree with my point of view that some people are in this universe for no other reason than to amuse me *G*.

    Be accountable to yourself. You’re the one who has to live with your actions. If you’re happy with what’s on your blog, rock on.

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  45. Jessica
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 20:48:45

    Jane wrote:

    1. I think bloggers can be independent despite a) advertising; b) getting free books; and c) having industry contacts. I say that because there are plenty of factors that can influence opinion and not all of them are friendship and money.

    There’s no question this is true. There is no truly unbiased human being, in a sense. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to deal the ones we know about.

    I'm of the opinion that as long as the blogger is transparent about a relationship, be it personal or monetary, then it's up the reader of the blog to determine bias.

    I think being biased and having your biases uncovered by others are two different things. I don’t think its ok to be biased as long as nobody figures it out (not what you are suggesting, I know).

    I agree that transparency is crucial. But is it enough? In my field, we have to sign conflict of interest disclosures before giving presentations or publishing articles. But disclosing a conflict of interest is not the same as ethically negotiating one, in my opinion (to be clear: I am not saying ads and the like in fact present a true conflict of interest. Just that they might, and if they do, then disclosure may not be sufficient.)

    I wonder if its fair to compare the situation to that of the AMA position on gifts from industry, which is zero tolerance — I mean not even Prozac pens are ethically ok. And why do travel books and food reviewers purchase their goods anonymously and pay for their own lodging and meals? (On the other hand, guides and sites like Frommer’s certainly take advertising dollars.)

    I think your response is the majority view and its a compelling one, but I’m still thinking on the issue. Thank you for responding!

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  46. K. Z. Snow
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 20:55:27

    I truly don’t give a shit what bloggers post on their sites. If I don’t like or trust the content, I don’t go there. Simple. I mean, come on, there are a gazillion blogs, and it isn’t even remotely possible to pull together something like a Hays Code to govern their content. (Yeah, yeah, I know, the Hays Code was essentially about censorship. But who needs another freakin’ “code” of any kind? Nobody adheres to the damned things anyway . . . thank goodness!) Damn, I’m sick of “da righteous” wanting to turn this into a society full of politically correct clones.

    Threatening people, posting government secrets, etc. are other matters entirely and should be handled by law enforcement agencies or, at least, publicly exposed. But dumbass babble? Hey, reader beware. People who consider themselves intelligent are, you know, responsible for their own sifting and winnowing and fact checks. The others get what they deserve.

    (Thus spake the libertarian in me!)

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  47. Sara Reinke
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 21:19:59

    Sara, THIS is precisely why I loved you from the first minute we met in San Fran!!

    Heh heh, love you, too, Monica. :)

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  48. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 21:20:20

    Ann said…

    Do I think I should be able to make other people live up to that? No.

    I don’t believe there should be some sort of governing body either, so as hard as it is to believe, I can agree with this.

    ‘Accountability' has no meaning without sanction, and sanctions in these cases would be far more dangerous than the original error.

    I don’t think there should be any sort of sanction against a couple of blogger disagreeing over the fall of the Roman Empire, or whatever random facts people like to argue about. I don’t think there should be sanction for a lot of the stupid BS we see in the world and online. Although I gotta admit, I’d be happier if there were fewer displays of stupidity.

    When it crosses in harassment or other activity that detrimental to others, then we can say there should be accountability.

    But I still stand by what I said…more personal accountability, as in holding yourself up to some decent set of standards, would be a good thing. It would keep a lot of the unethical, immoral but not exactly illegal behavior in line if people took responsibility for their actions.

    Emmy said…

    Even if you do always disagree with my point of view that some people are in this universe for no other reason than to amuse me *G*.

    LOL. You are so totally and completely hopeless, you know that?

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  49. Ann Somerville
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 21:34:28

    When it crosses in harassment or other activity that detrimental to others, then we can say there should be accountability.

    So how would that work? I mean, sure, we find out about it and we blog and comment etc. But you seem to think there should be some ‘official’ recourse. So – who would police it? Who would adjudicate? Who would decide what level of sanction to apply?

    Accountability implies that there is some enforcement. There can’t be, outside existing laws on libel and harassment and so on. Responsibility has to come from within. It can’t be imposed where there is no legal contract between blogger and reader. If you have a subscription service, where there are shareholders, fine. They have a legal right to ensure a bloggers stay within the lines. But if you just have one blogger spouting bullshit about another, you have to rely heavily on the *reading* community to expose that. Which is why the nonsense about dealing with Victoria Laurie in private was so pernicious. The only sanction we as bloggers and readers can bring to bear is public disapproval. I’d hate to see that codified, though.

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  50. ChariDee
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 21:40:52

    If I don’t like a book, I put it down and pick up another. If I don’t like a blog, I surf on to the next one. The great thing about both is that there are many options to choose from. How incredibly boring it would be if everyone out there tried to maintain the same standards of posting.

    My personal code of ethics and my morals could be vastly different from thousands of bloggers, but variety, they say, it is the spice of life, and I have learned an amazing amount of things from other bloggers, both what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. So I’m grateful for all the different blogging styles.

    One important caveat, though: if someone is blogging in their capacity as a professional, then they may be held to different standards, depending on their professional context and their content

    I think those that get paid to blog should be held to a different standard. But then again, it would be up to the person writing their checks to decide what that standard is, not mine as a blog reader.

    I also think that the blogging community polices itself fairly well. We’re quick to point out when some one crosses the line but as you all have proved time and time again, we’re also very quick to support one another too.

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  51. Jane
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 22:06:15

    You know, I think that the whole idea of accountability isn’t always working two ways. I assume that the people who read this blog are independent, critical thinkers and therefore the people who read it are able to determine whether the information is useable, whether it be served in opinion or fact form. Individuals who write for blogs try, I believe, to be as accurate as possible.

    I mean, where is the credibility for any blogger if s/he is continually giving out inaccurate information. No one would continue to read a blog that is wrong factually more often than not. I think a blogger’s accountability is her readership. When I blogged Adele Ashworth, there was no shortage of people telling me publicly and privately that they felt I had taken too harsh of a line. I appreciate those checks. I expect them. I invite them. I might not always agree, but I do not want a readership that is full of sheep, blindly swallowing whatever I say.

    I mean, agree with me, disagree with me, but let’s have a conversation. That is the best part of blogging.

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  52. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 22:09:26

    So how would that work? I mean, sure, we find out about it and we blog and comment etc. But you seem to think there should be some ‘official' recourse. So – who would police it? Who would adjudicate? Who would decide what level of sanction to apply?

    Well in cases like where an author goes stalking a a reader… and a mess like that DAM debacle a few months back is exactly what I had in mind when I state there should be some sort of sanction-she harassed, threatened, stalked a reader-yes, I feel there should be recourse.

    It’s illegal to stalk people in the States, and I imagine other places, so why can’t there be legal recourse in that situation? She harassed the readers in public venues like Amazon and Yahoo-why couldn’t she be banned?

    Responsibility has to come from within. It can't be imposed where there is no legal contract between blogger and reader.

    Okay….I’m gonna go with Emmy and just quote her

    She said,

    Be accountable to yourself. You're the one who has to live with your actions. If you're happy with what's on your blog, rock on.

    If people are willing to live with their actions, and the inevitable fallout, because negative actions usually come with fall out, then so be it.

    Yeah, responsibility comes from within…but ya know what, I bet if DAM or VL had any idea of the kind of mess they’d have on their hands when they went after readers and finally found one that stood up to them? I bet they would have thought twice. Might not have stopped them, but then again, it might have. They made themselves look like asses, I imagine they know that, and people that puffed up with self-importance really hate to look stupid.

    No, we can’t make people display more responsibility. We can’t make people be accountable…even if just to themselves.

    But we can do it FOR ourselves, and we can display it to others, and those of us in the position to do so can teach it to others…like parents, mentors, teachers, whatever. Won’t fix everything, but it definitely won’t hurt, either.

    And I’m done discussing this with you, Ann…even something as simple as stating people in general should be more accountable for their own actions seems to incite you to point out the many flaws therein and why we can’t ‘enforce’ it.

    I’m not talking about enforcing it. I’m talking about personal responsibility, personal accountability…and that we can enforce upon ourselves.

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  53. Robin
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 22:14:02

    IMHO, when someone puts words on a blog they're throwing out their thoughts and opinions and for me that is very personal. Even if the blog is done in a responsible manner, the personalization exists because opinion by its very nature is personal. However, not all fiction (if any) can be classified as opinion, which makes it less personal.

    But that assumes that the opinions are personally believed by the blogger, which I don’t think is always the case. You mention Jon Stewart, but I was thinking about Stephen Colbert, and about how he has a persona aimed at political satire via a somewhat disingenuous persona. And yet how much of what he says is *his* opinion might seem more obvious than it really is, especially when he makes fun of both sides of the political aisle.

    Also, some bloggers might put things out there simply to provoke debate and discussion, opinions they don’t actually hold personally. Blogs can sometimes have a ‘speaking to the choir’ feel, as one would expect, so what if a blogger throws an opinion out to draw more diverse voices into the conversation?

    I think there’s a tendency to want to believe what we read and hear, to put the accountability burden on the speaker far more than the hearer. Because, let’s face it, it’s *easier* to do so, because questioning requires more engaged effort. And when one feels like they’re listening to or reading an actual person, I think that desire to believe is even stronger, and the unconscious sense of accountability being on the speaker/writer is stronger, too. I’m not sure how to negotiate that whole thing, but I do believe it’s an issue that isn’t given enough attention when we talk about accountability on the internet.

    Blogs, from what I understand, aren't works of fiction, and bloggers are real people. In a novel, poem, song lyrics, whatever, the speaker is a character. Sure, we can say lyrics are offensive or that a certain book is crap, but it would be odd for someone to say, “I disagree with serial killer villains, because murder is wrong.”

    I don’t know; I see readers quite frequently refuse to read certain books because of morally objectionable material, whether that be Romance readers who won’t read rape, or what have you. In fact, I think there was some controversy over Suzanne Brockmann’s decision to write a book about gay protagonists and her decision to devote the profits from that book. And I still remember when people were calling Anna Campbell a pro-rape author after Claiming the Courtesan was published. So I think for many people books are extremely personal (for readers and authors alike), and certainly we see that whenever the whole baby metaphor rolls out, lol.

    As for blogs being fiction, I don’t know — aren’t some of them more performance than reality? It’s interesting, though, because I don’t know how many blogs would be categorized — in a broad sense many of them might be classed as non-fiction, but then again, so are Lewis Black’s books, but I don’t think that in reading them I’m *really getting to know the real person* behind the Lewis Black persona.

    OTOH, I *do* think that people are drawn to a sense of authenticity in what they read, and that they often want this in blogs, just as they want it in books. But I don’t think that’s always the same thing as reality.

    Now it’s very difficult for me to assume a persona that isn’t a real aspect of my personality, but for others I don’t think it’s so difficult. And I think that there are more than a few people who are writing fiction in the form of blogs. Should people trust that what they are reading is true, I can see where there might be a sense of betrayal at the discovery that it isn’t. But even when you are getting the “real” voice of a person in a blog, I think there’s still a performative aspect to blogging that makes it different from a person to person conversation.

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  54. Ann Somerville
    Aug 26, 2008 @ 22:19:06

    …even something as simple as stating people in general should be more accountable for their own actions seems to incite you to point out the many flaws therein and why we can't ‘enforce' it.

    You are missing my point – you keep using the word ‘accountable’ and Robin brought up the idea of some official ‘code’. My argument is that this is just never going to work. We can only ever bring moral pressure to bear where there is no breach of the law. Unfortunately, the DAM case and the VIctoria Laurie case illustrate the limits of moral pressure. Without a formal code which can’t be enforced, accountability is a myth. We can only push to the limit of responsibility. Not the same thing.

    Personal accountability, while laudable, isn’t what Robin was asking about. She was floating the idea of community accountability which, ultimately, doesn’t exist and can’t be made to exist in the blogosphere as it exists now.

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  55. Monica Burns
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 00:11:39

    But that assumes that the opinions are personally believed by the blogger, which I don't think is always the case. You mention Jon Stewart, but I was thinking about Stephen Colbert, and about how he has a persona aimed at political satire via a somewhat disingenuous persona. And yet how much of what he says is *his* opinion might seem more obvious than it really is, especially when he makes fun of both sides of the political aisle.

    Also, some bloggers might put things out there simply to provoke debate and discussion, opinions they don't actually hold personally. Blogs can sometimes have a 'speaking to the choir' feel, as one would expect, so what if a blogger throws an opinion out to draw more diverse voices into the conversation?

    Excellent points, but I’m inclined to think that the majority of bloggers for better or worse are simply expressing their personal opinions. But it is a thought-provoking exercise to consider how much of a blogger’s words are real and how much are part of the persona.

    As for bloggers who put opinions out that they don’t hold personally, strikes me as odd. I don’t think I’m wired to understand the nuances of why someone would put out an opinion they don’t subscribe too. I don’t question that it’s done, but it still has a personal meaning for the blogger in terms of the benefits they reap. They benefit whether through self-gratification, monetary benefits, or maybe even notoriety Whatever the reason, it’s still of personal benefit to the blogger, even though they might not actually subscribe to the opinion, but I think it still makes it personal because they benefit from it. Granted, it’s 1am and I’m light-headed. LOL

    I’ll be honest and say that one the reasons I don’t post more on DA is because I am usually in awe of the intellectual brain power in the discourse. I feel completely out of depth and while I might have an opinion, I feel others infuse the conversation with words that are far superior to mine. *grin* So while I agree that engaging in the discourse does work in favor of the accountability factor, I also believe that there are blogs where even posting a disagreement earns the commenter nothing but harsh ridicule for daring to have a different opinion. That type of blog I avoid, it’s pointless to suggest accountability to people who have no wish to be accountable. I’m a firm believer that the only people who can change someone’s mind is themselves, so if that’s the case the blogger must assume the burden of accountability as it’s their blog. However I will agree with your point that discourse plays an important role in that accountability as lack of disagreement does not offer the blogger the opportunity to rethink their position. But then there are some who are convinced they’re right and are not given to change. Sometimes I’m bull headed like that! LOL My apologies if this seems lacking in clarity of thought. I got addicted to the convention and the political analysis. NOT GOOD for getting sleep. LOL But I’m enjoying the thinking cap session.

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  56. Nora Roberts
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 06:26:26

    Ann, Robin’s initial question was what we expect. I expect a blog to give accurate information (entirely different from opinion which is subjective). If the blog is in error, I expect them to fix the error.

    If a blog claimed Nora Roberts was a six-foot black man (silly, yes, but it’s early and what popped to my mind), I would expect them to correct when it was proven NR is a much shorter white woman.

    Would I pursue toward legal action? No. Would I ask and expect this inaccurate information to be corrected? Yes.

    If the blog refused to correct their mistakes, I’d stop going there. I imagine many others would as well if information proved incorrect.

    I expect the industry news I read on a blog like this to be accurate, and expect DA to correct if there was an oops. When there is an article of opinion on the industry, I have different expectations.

    I really don’t think we’re talking about the same thing. But on a personal level, and going by my own personal expectations, I believe when someone blogs about information as fact, they should stand up and admit the mistake if a mistake was made.

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  57. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 06:51:37

    I really don't think we're talking about the same thing. But on a personal level, and going by my own personal expectations, I believe when someone blogs about information as fact, they should stand up and admit the mistake if a mistake was made.

    Well said.

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  58. snarkhunter
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 07:07:42

    I don't know; I see readers quite frequently refuse to read certain books because of morally objectionable material, whether that be Romance readers who won't read rape

    While there are certainly people who don’t read certain books b/c of “morally objectionable” content, I think lumping rape into that category is a little unfair. For myself, and for many other readers, that’s self-protection. It’s not because I find rape morally objectionable (although, obviously, I do) that I refuse to read it. It’s because it’s a trigger issue for me, and I refuse to surrender my mental health to my pleasure reading.

    I would say there’s a difference between self-censoring one’s reading on moral grounds and self-censoring one’s reading on the grounds of personal taste and/or mental health–someone upthread indicated that, as well, with the example of a friend whose son committed suicide.

    The Brockmann example is a better one. It seems to me that it’s not major crimes like rape and murder that keep people from reading certain kinds of books on *moral* grounds. It’s the perception of other moral “sins”–premarital sex, foul language, and the presence of gay characters.

    Either way, we probably shouldn’t judge readers’ choices (not saying you were, Robin, but just reinforcing this point).

    What those choices say about how readers relate to/perceive books…I’m not sure. One could argue that those who don’t read certain things b/c of personal morality clauses see books as more intensely real, but I think that’s unfair, because self-preservative readers often feel just the same way.

    Hm. And now I’m wondering if that doesn’t mean that there isn’t more overlap between the two kinds of self-censoring readers…

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  59. Ann Somerville
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 07:14:41

    If a blog claimed Nora Roberts was a six-foot black man (silly, yes, but it's early and what popped to my mind), I would expect them to correct when it was proven NR is a much shorter white woman.

    Well, yes, because as I said originally, if it affects a person or business directly, they should have a say in what’s written about them.

    But I want to know where the ‘expectation’ of accuracy comes from. What, indeed, gives you any cause to think you can ‘expect’ anything from someone with whom you have no legal, or even social connection (when it’s not a question of legal or moral transgression.)

    If I buy one of your books, and you make some egregious error of fact (like claiming David Beckham is a sex god, or some such :) ) your publisher and I have a legal connection on which to base an expectation. They produce a product, and I find it’s faulty. I have a right to expect that a product – book, toaster, hybrid car – will not be faulty. Factual accuracy is part of what we can reasonably expect from a book, even if it’s fiction (although the bar is clearly higher with none fiction.

    If you buy a newspaper, and it print that the moon is made of blue cheese, you can expect them to fix that error because you are a customer. There’s still no law forcing them to.

    But what’s the basis of your ‘expectation’ of error correction with a blog? That’s what I’m trying to get at. Yes, decent sensible people confronted with a mistake they’ve made, will want to fix it for their own sense of pride and responsibility, but just as you don’t want readers telling you what to write or that you’ve got your characters all wrong, why should a blogger tolerate people ‘expecting’ anything from them? Should Pickled Cupid be forced to be funny? Should DA be forced to only blog about serious matters? Should Karen Scott always reach a required level of snark?

    My point is – blogs (usually) are private concerns. We treat them as if they’re entertainment we’ve paid for, same as books, newspapers, even like buskers – but actually, it’s more like strolling into someone’s living room and watching them play Scrabble. You should have no more ‘expectation’ of them playing Scrabble to the rules because you do, than they should have of making you insert a character with their name in your next book.

    I’m trying to make a distinction between what the reader ‘expects’ which is what Robin is asking about, and what a decent person would usually do, which is what you and Shiloh are talking about. The two aren’t the same thing. It seems to me talk of a code, or regulation, or standards, are based on an ‘expectation’ which has no proper basis – and this is what I’ve have been trying to make clear.

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  60. Nora Roberts
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 08:21:04

    ~Should Pickled Cupid be forced to be funny? Should DA be forced to only blog about serious matters? Should Karen Scott always reach a required level of snark?~

    I just don’t see this as at all the same thing. I can only think we’re either not talking about the same thing, or just can’t agree on this point.

    There’s such a difference between my expectations and forcing anything, or even demanding it for that matter.

    I don’t see the distinction you’re making–re Robin’s question. The question was:

    ~What do you expect from the blogs you frequent, and do you give more validity to blogs that proclaim some ethical standard of their own, or are you simply looking for entertainment, ethical standards be damned?~

    And that’s what I answered. We may be interpreting the question differently. What I expect, and why I would give more validity to a blog that gave accurate information, or corrected inaccuracies was my answer to the question as I read it.

    ~I'm trying to make a distinction between what the reader ‘expects' which is what Robin is asking about, and what a decent person would usually do, which is what you and Shiloh are talking about. The two aren't the same thing.~

    For me, and my expectations, they are the same thing. Others may certainly feel differently. My only argument with you would be your claim that I don’t have a right to my expectations, or that my expectations have no proper basis.

    You don’t agree with them, and that’s fine. But it’s another matter to say I’m not entitled to them, or in fact, to turn expectation into force.

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  61. Ann Somerville
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 08:52:44

    Nora, I think we are nuancing ‘expect’ differently. The definition of the word is to:

    • regard (someone) as likely to do or be something : [ trans. ] they were not expecting him to continue.
    • believe that (someone or something) will arrive soon : Celia was expecting a visitor.
    • look for (something) from someone as rightfully due or requisite in the circumstances : we expect great things of you.
    • require (someone) to fulfill an obligation : [ trans. ] we expect employers to pay a reasonable salary.

    I think you are using it principally to mean one or all of the first three, and I, because Robin started out talking about codes of conduct, ethics, holding people to standards, am using it in the fourth sense. And my argument is that there is no basis on which you can do that (in the fourth sense) or to impose codes or standards.

    I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. I don’t mean you should not anticipate decent behaviour from your fellow human beings when they blog, or indeed that it’s not a level we should all aspire to. I’m only talking about people feeling entitled to tell bloggers how to behave in their own private places, and holding them to some community standard to which the blogger has no obligation to subscribe.

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  62. Nora Roberts
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 09:32:46

    ~I'm only talking about people feeling entitled to tell bloggers how to behave in their own private places, and holding them to some community standard to which the blogger has no obligation to subscribe~

    I certainly agree with this, and made it clear in my initial comment my way of dealing with sites where I don’t like the style or tone is not to go there. That’s much different than demanding they change to suit my expectations. None of my comments in this thread go anywhere near telling anyone how to behave in their own place, or even holding them to a community standard.

    This, once again, comes down to opinion. It’s mine that when information is posted on a blog, it be accurate. It’s my opinion that if the information is proved inaccurate, the blogger should correct. I can’t force them to, but I can expect it. And if my expectations aren’t met, I can remove myself from their space.

    That seems pretty simple and straight-forward to me.

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  63. flower
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 11:37:10

    I think it a positive thing, if Bloggers subscribed to a Code of Ethics as recommended by Cyberjournalist.net. I think that the standards must be general in nature, by the sheer fact of perception. Ethics, as described are general in their nature. While morality is often skewed by ones personal, religious, etc…perception.
    As a reader, I can choose to ignore a Blog that offends me or I find too ridiculous for words. But, I don’t feel that any should do unnecessary harm. The anonymity factor is crucial….jobs are lost as a result from being “outed” as a Blogger. Folks are stalked…this is the way of this (oftentimes) nonsensical world we live in.
    If you get too specific in the Rules, well, again….you run into the wall of perception. I have in the past, blogged regarding a POV that I didn’t necessarily agree, because I wanted to throw that POV out there for others comments and perceptions. It’s a curiosity factor at play (plus the fact that I’m just nosy!) and yes, LOL…that is gratuitous in nature isn’t it?
    As for Spoilers? See the above comment re being nosy! Seriously, reviews are there, take em or leave em. Just be an adult about it. I (currently) do not Blog, Review, author novels, etc., because I suck at it and get my feelings hurt too easily to take the heat. But I can tell you that as a voracious reader, it really offends me when I see Authors, et al behaving badly.
    Barring a violation re. Ethics, a la VL or DAM…I say let the Blogger have their say. “Be Honest and Fair; Minimize Harm; and Be Accountable.” I. Love. It.

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  64. Lori Borrill
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 11:41:16

    On the subject of accountability, I think people often get tripped up by the idea that if it’s a blog or forum, everyone’s entitled to freedom of speech. And yes, most blogs are little more than a conversation between people, no different than a group sitting around a dinner table and tossing out ideas and opinions. Say what you want, and if it ends up being inappropriate or wrong, it’s up to the individual to decide how they want to handle it, or the participants to decide how they want to respond.

    But on some blogs, there definitely is an accountability based on how that blog is sponsored. This has come up on eHarlequin a couple of times. Given the freedom to speak on a publisher’s blog or forum, their authors have, at times, forgotten where they are, and that for all intent and purpose, they are acting as ambassadors for the company when they open their virtual mouths. They may not have asked for that responsibility, but the fact that their names are on the publisher’s books and they’re speaking on the publisher’s site, their comments and opinions can be viewed as the voice of the company. And there’s an accountability that goes along with that.

    Same goes for aspiring authors. If you’re submitting to a publisher and are blogging on their site, you best be talking as though you’re in a job interview. Because believe it or not, I’ve seen careers and prospective careers ruined for people who have forgotten that.

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  65. Robin
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 11:43:40

    While there are certainly people who don't read certain books b/c of “morally objectionable” content, I think lumping rape into that category is a little unfair. For myself, and for many other readers, that's self-protection. It's not because I find rape morally objectionable (although, obviously, I do) that I refuse to read it. It's because it's a trigger issue for me, and I refuse to surrender my mental health to my pleasure reading.

    ITA that moral objection is not the only reason some readers won’t read about rape, especially in Romance. But I know from experience that it is one reason, and I know this because I have been criticized directly for not standing up against rape in Romance. Once, on AAR, no less, I was likened to a member of the KKK for not rejecting Gaffney’s To Have and To Hold. I have argued with readers who believe that any author who uses rape in Romance is anti-feminist, even anti-women. That it’s irresponsible for authors to use rape in the genre. Now I’m more like you, Snarkhunter, in that rape is EXTREMELY difficult for me to read, and there are many books I just won’t pick up because of the way the rape is portrayed. But I don’t have a blanket policy about it, because some of my most loved books include sexual force. And also, because I differentiate different portrayals of rape in Romance and have a whole theory about the genre is recuperating female power via the trope. But that’s a whole different thing, lol.

    As for moral objections generally, I will not read anything where live animals (not penises that have the spirits of animals, a la Nicholas) are used in sex play. I have a moral objection to that, and I’m not afraid to say it.

    What I had to adjust to in Romance is the relative conservatism that — at least when I started participating in the online community — seemed to characterize the readership. And I think that in Romance there can be a very strong personal character to reading for many of its readers, which perhaps creates different expectations than in other genres. Which comes across in very strong reader preferences, and even the stated rejection of certain books, and especially certain heroines (which I think we could do many, many posts on;) ), based on their behavior or beliefs. I remember when Susan Donovan’s Public Displays of Affection came out and some readers said they would not read the book because Charlotte, the heroine, had roadside sex with a stranger on her way to meet her boyfriend, knowing he would propose and wanting to experience passion just once before that (and giving her virginity to the stranger). Of course, the “stranger” turns out to be the book’s hero, and the boyfriend the heroine’s dead husband, so relatively speaking, Charlotte wasn’t exactly a “slut,” but she came across that way to some readers, and they would not even give the book a shot. Which is, of course, a reader’s prerogative, but it made me very aware of how much more invested some readers are in liking and approving of Romance protagonists than in other genres. And yeah, I think it may have to do with that sense of the “real” you mention in your comment.

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  66. MoJo
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 11:55:14

    have a whole theory about the genre is recuperating female power via the trope [rape/forced seduction]

    Robin, can you blog this some time? I’d love to read it.

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  67. Robin
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 11:57:31

    As for bloggers who put opinions out that they don't hold personally, strikes me as odd. I don't think I'm wired to understand the nuances of why someone would put out an opinion they don't subscribe too.

    I guess it’s the academic in me, Monica, because I’ve spent much time as both a teacher and a student within the Socratic method, lol. One of the most difficult things as a teacher, IMO, is keeping your students from being able to peg you in terms of your personal views. Which they are inevitably trying to do so that they can just relax and feed you what they think you expect. But since one’s job as a teacher (at least at the university level) is to foster critical thinking and analysis of multiple viewpoints, you want your students to be working to decipher many different types of assertions and arguments, to discuss their various implications and understand multiple positions and points of view (to promote intellectual empathy and analytical rigor).

    Those habits have, I think, become so inculcated in me that I can see where floating views not one’s own can create really interesting discussion, especially when you’ve got that ‘choir’ vibe going in any particular community. So I definitely see the value of it even though I am not one who spends much of my blog time doing it. Sometimes I will float arguments I don’t subscribe to, though, just to see how people will respond and to help fashion counter-arguments. What can I say, I like the intellectual debate, lol.

    I'll be honest and say that one the reasons I don't post more on DA is because I am usually in awe of the intellectual brain power in the discourse.

    Well, I know you can’t force people to post, but I love all the commenting, even if I don’t respond to every comment that interests or engages me. I know what you mean, though, because there are definitely sites I don’t comment at because I don’t feel enough of an expert to add anything valuable. In fact, I feel like that a bit every time I have to write a blog post, lol.

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  68. Robin
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 12:00:11

    MoJo: Yes, I will.

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  69. Robin
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 12:12:47

    On the subject of accountability and expectations, I don’t have anything pithy or revelatory to say. I am enjoying the exchange, though, because it strikes me that some of the differences relate to one’s dominant role in the online world — as blogger or blog reader/participant. I think that depending on which part of one’s online personality, the notions of accountability and expectation will change a bit. As a blogger I can only adhere to my own sense of what is proper and what I owe anyone reading my words. As a blog reader, I may have different expectations — I do, in fact, because I tend to be more narrow with myself than with other bloggers.

    I’m not sure, honestly, how I feel about the idea that a blogger should be held to a standard of accuracy and should admit a mistake when informed. For one thing, sometimes people who insist a mistake has been made are themselves wrong, and let me tell you that it can be a dicey thing to engage in an exchange in which you tell the reader that, lol. And I say that as someone who loves to dig in and argue. That has burned me a few times when things blow up way past the original difference — and this assumes that there is an easily discerned “correct” position.

    So I’ll have to think about that some more, i.e, do bloggers have a right to be wrong?

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  70. EssieLou
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 12:19:57

    Which is, of course, a reader's prerogative, but it made me very aware of how much more invested some readers are in liking and approving of Romance protagonists than in other genres

    I know one of the most consistant comments I hear, and it applies to me also, is that you become the heroine when you read. You want someone you can like, identify with and live vicariously through. So she has to have things about her that you admire and respect. Even her flaws and weaknesses you can tolerate if they remind you of your own.

    Granted, thats for those of us who read totally for escapism and pure entertainment. If I want to be educated, I google or buy a “how too” book. If I want pure heartbreaking reality, I hang out in reality. If I want to live something wonderful, happy and easing to my spirit, I read a romance. And I expect a romance (not a novel with a few romantic chapters).

    Women who have sex with strangers on the side of the road? I know plenty of them and I work with them pretty regularly…but they aren’t healthy of mind or body or spirit so it’s hard to romantize them…. those without the drug issues are hypersexualized due to abuse, out of control bi-polars, schizophrenics off their meds etc etc etc. So whatever, I can feel tremendous pity, but I don’t think it’s romantic.

    Rapists? I can point you to a building with at least 12 who will never leave –because they’re GRI- Guilty by Reason of Insanity. Again, when you’ve had a one of them call you ‘pretty lady’ and follow you around, the whole ‘rapist as romance hero’ perspective shifts. Especially when they’re toothless and drooling. Argh….for me that kind of male in a book is like saying Ted Bundy was an over enthusiastic lover and Jeffery Dahmer had an eating disorder. It just doesn’t compute and I can’t make it….

    Which is why I was very surpised when years after reading THTH, I found it was lauded as a good book. When I read it the first and only time, I took it to Goodwill the next day, mostly because, every rapist I know ain’t nuthin’ like that guy and none in RL change because it ‘feels right’. IOW, the character did not behave as I believe and observe humans behaving in this reality (Granted, somewhere else….maybe).

    Can I see why other women love it? YES! Can I understand why others would think it was a great book? Yes, of course. Can I understand why some hate it purely because of the rape? Yep. I know why I disliked it…mostly because wasn’t an enjoyable read.

    And I’m being honest. :)

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  71. Monica Burns
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 12:33:09

    I guess it's the academic in me, Monica, because I've spent much time as both a teacher and a student within the Socratic method, lol. One of the most difficult things as a teacher, IMO, is keeping your students from being able to peg you in terms of your personal views.

    AHA!! That's why it escapes me! Now I don’t feel so bad. LOL I am a lousy teacher, but this explanation makes PERFECT sense to me now. And the Socratic method I understand, I just never had the ability to work within it. Guess that explains my C in Philosophy class, despite my love of delving into the topic. I need to have you chat with my Senior, who's going to college with teaching as her objective. *grin*

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  72. Nora Roberts
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 12:33:44

    ~So I'll have to think about that some more, i.e, do bloggers have a right to be wrong?~

    I’m being more black and white, I suppose. What I’m speaking of is making a claim to fact–i.e. XYZ Publisher to launch new line of Cat Romances! When it fact, XYZ Publisher is not, never claimed to be, but the blogger heard it from her sister’s pal’s brother and announced it. Or, it turns out it wasn’t XYC, but ABC Publisher who is launching the new line.

    I’d expect the blogger to say whoops, sorry, I got that one wrong. Otherwise, I wouldn’t credit the next announcement of industry news on that blog.

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  73. EssieLou
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 12:41:34

    It all comes down to honest intent I guess. If I trust you and you tell me something that I pass on via a blog, then I really believed it at time of posting to be true.

    That’s an easy “Sorry, wrong info! I apologize!” Versus intentionally lying about information what should be solid.

    However, proof of intent may be another thing.

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  74. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 12:43:15

    So I'll have to think about that some more, i.e, do bloggers have a right to be wrong?

    I think I’m viewing this in the same way Nora does.

    The right to be wrong…well, we’re all human, that means we’re all going to make mistakes at some point. When it happens, whether it’s a factual thing or a misunderstanding, I would hope to see it addressed, I’d hope that inaccurate information was corrected.

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  75. XandraG
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 14:31:12

    I don’t have any easy answers here. I read political blogs and to be honest, the journalism I’ve seen on blogs has become more ethical and substantive than the stuff I read in the paper or see on the boob toob. And at those blogs, I do expect an ethic to be present that matches or exceeds the spirit of which is taught in Journalism classes at university level (notice I said “taught in J-classes” because I’m one of the gazillions of people who switched majors when they saw that the curriculum ah, varied wildly from the practice).

    Now is a romance book blog the equivalent of a political commentary blog? On many occasions, it’s just as much of a blood sport it seems. ;) And I’m inclined to say that blogging on the more dedicated side is more like online, citizen journalism than putting out your Very Secret Diary for everyone to read (although there are a zillion blogs who are more like the latter than the former, my own included). But no matter what the original intent, blogs that feature news content (like DA and SBTB) as a regular part of their discourse have attracted enough attention to be considered sources by other outlets. It is ultimately up to the blogs’ owners as to whether they want to hold themselves to any sort of ethical standard, but their choices will determine whether or not their credibility as news sources and/or “expert commentary” will remain consistent in the eyes of their peers. That probably includes some sort of disclosure of ad purchasers or employment or payment for any entities in the industry.

    As to my personal preference with respect to reviews on sites, the only things I ask is that the reviewer have actually read the story in question, and to disclose as to whether or not they either work in the publishing industry, or are an author or aspiring author. I’d like to know up front if the person writing the review has any industry connections that may affect their review.

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  76. Karen Scott
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 15:17:59

    My Expectations

    From a personal point of view, I expect nothing from other blogs, until I become more familiar with them. With familiarity, comes the great, or not-so-great expectations.

    If I surf onto a new-to-me blog, and find lots of posts featuring kittens and recipes, then I surf out, and never go back. On the other hand, if I find posts about things that interest me, and I like the ‘voice’ of the blogger, then I’ll visit regularly. For me, it’s as simple as that.

    Audience Expectations

    I think certain blogs are sub-consciously held to a much higher standard than others. For example, a post entitled Fucktard of The Week, on KKB, wouldn’t be considered to be out of the ordinary, but if that same title appeared on here, or the SB’s blog, there would probably be more than a few eyebrows raised. That’s because, by design or not, those standards have been set by the individual bloggers themselves.

    If I surfed in and found lots of pictures of naked men plastered all over the place, I’d assume that the Ja(y)nes had been abducted, merely because as far as I’m aware, that’s never been their thing.

    Me, I’m not comfortable with high expectations, my blogging is an enjoyable hobby, and the day I start to worry about what people expect of me, is the day I take up chess again.

    Accountability

    I think there’s a recognised double standard at work, when it comes to reader blogs vs ‘professional’ blogs. If you’re an author who wants to sell your work to the public, then, although you may consider your blog to be your private place, the reality is, you don’t have the same freedom as Jane Reader does, in terms of what you can say. OK, that’s slightly wrong, of course you have the freedom, but there are greater repercussions for you as an author, if you decide to let it all hang out.
    Slightly unfair perhaps, but that’s the way the world works. Just ask Britney Spears.

    The Persona Behind The Blog

    I think Robin makes an interesting point about bloggers sometimes being performers.

    I personally think that anytime, you put people in front of an audience, be it on a stage, or a public blog, there’s always going to be a certain level of playing to the crowd. I think it’s a natural compulsion, that all of us have to some degree.

    What I have more of a problem with, is marrying the notion of bloggers as performers, with the idea that perhaps we don’t always mean what we post. The Pollyanna in me, rejects that idea totally. I’ve been accused more than once of ramping up the drama in an effort to obtain more hits, but I can honestly say, I’ve never once posted anything, controversial or not, that I didn’t believe, and I think the same can be said for the majority of bloggers in Romanceland.

    KKB is considered a snarky blog, and that’s something I’ve created I guess, due to the overall tone of the site, and although in real life, I can be as sarcastic as the next person, that’s not the sum total of who I am. It’s just a tiny part actually, but I’m aware that people will, judge me by the words on my blog. And that’s ok by me, because afterall, they have little else to judge me by.

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  77. AndreaS
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 15:23:05

    Not having read many of the comments I’m going to add to what I gather a few other people have said.

    I go to blogs for information. But I’m going to base what I expect on the blog and how much I trust the author/poster. On blogs like this here one, I expect to be truthful and accurate information (to the best of any human’s ability) and good reading advice. It’s not impossible for DA to be wrong, but if it’s something posted as fact and it’s incorrect, I’d like to know about it. Now, anything written with “my opinion” around it is not subject to that because you’ve said you’re basing it on your worldview.

    I may go to a blog who’s author I don’t trust as far as I can spit (not very far), but knowing full well that I’m only there for entertainment value and to take everything with a shaker of salt.

    So maybe what I expect out of bloggers is correct representation. Don’t pretend to be an industry professional if you’ve not worked in the industry. If you’re writing reviews based on your opinion, thanks for letting me know. If you’re just a high schooler with too much time, I’m okay with that. Just own up to what you wrote and accept that some people might disagree and others might prove you wrong.

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  78. Robin
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 16:59:33

    I read political blogs and to be honest, the journalism I've seen on blogs has become more ethical and substantive than the stuff I read in the paper or see on the boob toob.

    I don’t think any single source can be fully authoritative, and so the popularity of political blogs is exciting, IMO, because it reflects what I hope will be a resurgence in public engagement in political debate and discourse.

    But this comment also reminds me of several incidents lately uncovered by blogs about the mainstream media: ABC’s suppression of pro-Obama poll information, CBS’s editing of a John McCain interview, and Fox’s alteration of photos of NYT journalists.

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  79. snarkhunter
    Aug 27, 2008 @ 17:11:55

    ITA that moral objection is not the only reason some readers won't read about rape, especially in Romance. But I know from experience that it is one reason, and I know this because I have been criticized directly for not standing up against rape in Romance. Once, on AAR, no less, I was likened to a member of the KKK for not rejecting Gaffney's To Have and To Hold. I have argued with readers who believe that any author who uses rape in Romance is anti-feminist, even anti-women. That it's irresponsible for authors to use rape in the genre.

    Ah, I see. For whatever reason, that didn’t even occur to me this morning. I sort of thought you were just lumping “Gah, I can’t read this because it will destabilize me for days/weeks” into “I will not read this because it offends my delicate moral sensibilities.” There is overlap there, and I try hard not to criticize the latter (…most of the time), but I guess the coffee just hadn’t kicked in yet when I read this this morning.

    FWIW, while I certainly think there are *some* uses of rape in romance that can be indefensible, I do not presume to judge how it’s been used in the majority of novels, especially since I cannot read them, and will not.

    ETA: It rather annoys me that I read “morality” and immediately made the mental leap to “conservative ‘family values’ types.” Which is unfair to pretty much everyone and is, I think, why I misread the comment to which I was replying.

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  80. XandraG
    Aug 28, 2008 @ 13:17:23

    I don't think any single source can be fully authoritative, and so the popularity of political blogs is exciting, IMO, because it reflects what I hope will be a resurgence in public engagement in political debate and discourse.

    But this comment also reminds me of several incidents lately uncovered by blogs about the mainstream media: ABC's suppression of pro-Obama poll information, CBS's editing of a John McCain interview, and Fox's alteration of photos of NYT journalists.

    ::Nodnods:: I think there’s also an overlap with academia. Bloggers who extend the same care in research to blog articles as academic papers can and have garnered authority by dint of research on subjects, even if it’s not yet widely accepted by the establishment. Good research and well-written, thoughtful analysis will out with consistency, so in effect it’s not necessarily the fact that a blog is a blog or that a blogger is a blogger, but that the blog and the blogger deliver a consistent level of work that establishes its own reputation.

    And I followed several of the media links as they happened, and that’s where the value of the political blogs come in as citizen journalism, opposition discourse, and watchdog functions that suffer neglect in the profit-driven media industry.

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